Middle Earth: Shadow of That Place With A Lot of Uruk
You are Talion, a human merged with a wraith. You cannot be killed permanently. You are stuck in the lands of Mordor. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? That's what I am here to talk about. Let us begin.
Let me start off by talking about the combat. It’s very much like Assassin’s Creed or the Batman: Arkham series. You do a lot of countering and slashing. The animations that pull this off are fantastic and fluid - definitely the best version of this combat system I’ve played. It also helps that almost every time you gain a new skill, it changes the way you go about slaying the Uruk.
I started off all gung-ho, just rushing in to brutally slay the creatures. But as I progressed, I found that stealth mixed with a blink-like slaughter ability worked wonders to traverse through the keeps in the game. I wish that branding would take place sooner than it does, but they do give you an entire new area to explore with its own set of Uruk captains to conquer, so it’s not all bad.The climbing can be a bit clunky at times, as can the combat finishers, which don’t always target the Uruk that you have your joystick pointed at.
The only other complaint I have about the gameplay has to do with combat again. There's a lack of variation among enemies. While I understand that being in Mordor means you really only have Uruk to slay, there are only four types of Uruk.
- Shield-bearer - jump over him and you get a swift set of attacks (sounds familiar because it’s ripped straight out of the Arkham-verse).
- Dual-wielder - acts almost exactly like the knife-wielders of the Arkham games. A quick stun allows you to get in there and actually attack.
- Peon - anything will work on this simpleton.
- Ranger - technically there are two types of these, a crossbow archer and a spear thrower, but they behave exactly alike.
The beasts in the game: ghûls, caragors, and graugs, are all fairly rare and boring to fight. By the time you face a graug, you’re really close to being able to teleport onto their backs and bring them under your will. Ghûls are basically the flood of the game, large groups of super weak monsters, who are tough for about a minute until you get the hang of it, and then they’re just more fodder for your blade. Lastly, the caragor are basically dogs. They can occasionally cause trouble early on, but midway through the game you only use them because it’s bonus points for quests if they kill Uruk for you.
Let’s talk about the system that everyone (including myself) gets hard for: the nemesis system. We'll start with an example. There’s this Uruk with no name. He steals a kill. It levels him up, usually from either level one or level ten, depending on how far you've gotten in the game. So this no-name Uruk goes from a level one nobody to a level two somebody, and he even gets a semi-unique name like Grakû the Dog Whisperer (not an actual example but you get the idea). Generally, the name ties in with some trait of his.
Each Uruk captain has various traits, and as they level up, by killing you, killing each other, eating, hunting, or killing caragor, they gain more traits. They can become bodyguards for one of five war chiefs, or become a war chief themselves. This system does actually make you want to slay them, or control them (the more likely choice once you gain the ability to do so). It’s definitely a system that I’m interested in seeing how other developers, and Monolith too, improve upon it in the future. In its current iteration, it’s fairly cool. But I think there’s real potential for this to add to so many more games, especially of the RPG genre.
Now for the HUD. This will be short and sweet. It’s well done and minimalistic. The quick-time events that you get twice per life, or during special story moments, are well-integrated into the scene so you don’t miss the action, and the prompts don’t get in the way. Very well done.
Okay, I like the Lord of the Rings. They're good movies. And no, I haven’t read the books. That being said, I’m going to rate this story based on it being its own entity and not LOTR-related.
It starts off well. The introduction makes you curious about what has already happened and what’s going to happen. As you progress, you gain more sympathy for Talíon and Celebrimbor. You get pulled into the story of why. About halfway through, though, you meet a dwarf who is literally only there to teach you how to tame a graug. You also meet a princess who’s really a whiny little girl. Her queenly mother has an intriguing backstory that I won't spoil.
Just as you’re thinking, oh yeah, let’s wrap this story up and kill us some Black Hand, you get punched right in the gut. And not in a woah I can’t believe that just happened kind of ending, but a what the hell was that?! kind of ending. The final boss battle can’t even be called a boss battle. It was a poorly made interactive cutscene. Seriously, it's the epic conclusion battle, and the main villain of the game is taken down in three super easy hits and four quick-time prompts. Are you kidding me? One basic Uruk takes four hits to kill by endgame. By that logic, the final boss ranks somewhere between a basic Uruk and a shield-bearer, who takes about ten hits( not counting combat executions). All I have to say about that final fight: bullshit.
The game doesn’t even end on a satisfying story note. It leaves the plot hanging, and not in an exciting way either. More of a this is gonna just go on forever like that other game you stole from kind of way.
There’s about a 50% chance I'll never play this game again. The other 50% is that between now and the next time I buy a game, I might get bored of the 80+ games I own and feel like mindlessly slaying some Uruk.